Toy Train Revue On-line is a webzine for both the collector and operator of toy trains including Lionel, American Flyer, Ives, MTH, Williams, Marx, Weaver, 3rd Rail, K-line and Atlas O. Features include in-depth interviews, news in the hobby, layout building tips, product reviews and more.

Snow York City

by Joseph Stachler

The American International Toy Fair celebrated its 100th Anniversary by enduring a string of enormous challenges.

First, an uncertain economy, such as the one we are experiencing now, is very hard on the toy industry. Consumers are understandably wary of spending money on new toys. This in turn makes stores feel the same way about investing in new products for the rest of the year.

Second, as the situation in Iraq has been growing more tense, and with the recent ending of the Muslim festival of Eid, the government was bracing for a new wave of terrorist attacks and therefore elevated the national security threat level to orange. The city considered most prone to an attack was New York.

Third, also related to Iraq, was the huge demonstration by protestors over the Bush administration's course of action in dealing with Saddam Hussein. This took place on Saturday, February 15, and resulted in Times Square being held frozen by thousands of people marching through town. Although Toy Fair didn't begin until the next day, set-up for exhibitors was held on Saturday. So you had the Javits center on one side of Manhattan, hotels on the other, and a dead-locked Times Square in the middle.

Finally, as if the sour ingredients listed above were not enough, Mother Nature heaped almost 20 inches of heavy snow right on the city within a 24-hour period. Monday morning greeted Toy Fair attendees with streets and sidewalks completely covered by an incredible amount of snow. So even though the exhibitors were committed to attending the convention, the appearance of prospective buyers was now in question.

In spite of these incredible odds, Toy Fair managed to be okay. It wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't a runaway success, either. One thing is for certain, at the conclusion of this legendary show at 4:00 pm on February 19, a significant amount of exhibitors were left wondering about future Toy Fairs. Next year will be interesting to watch.

Most of the images below are thumbnails. Click on them and the full-size version will appear.

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43rd St at 11th. The snow is still coming down. Don't forget to feed the meter.


Lionel was at the top of the list of companies showing at Toy Fair over the past 100 years. Their brand-new display was prominently positioned at a main entrance to the lower level of the Javits Center. ABC Nightly News was one of several media outlets that gave Lionel prime nation-wide exposure. Some buyers commented on the reduced amount of trains on display compared to previous Toy Fairs, but Lionel still had a fairly thorough cross-representation of their overall product line.

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Lionel's new show display is an impressive replica of the classic
840 Power Station.
P1010055.JPG (232223 bytes) In the center of the display was a small layout. On the bottom level ran another commemorative Dreyfuss Hudson pulling a consist of Toy Fair boxcars.

Lionel's SD40 Tunnel Motor without decoration.

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An oval of the new FasTrack. The sections lock together, enabling one to hang the loop on the wall. Inside the display on the far wall. In the center are two LionMaster locomotives.
P1010007.JPG (124314 bytes) There are two new playground animations, both include swing sets. The action is provided by electro-magnets housed beneath the simulated ground.
Lionel's new scale banjo signal is based on the 0140 Banjo Signal made for HO in the mid-1960s. The original 0140 is sought after by both HO collectors and scale 3-rail O operators. It can fetch as much as $150.00. This new version uses a small DC motor instead of the vibrotor drive. To incorporate the circuit board necessary to convert AC power to DC, the base had to be modified.
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Lionel had two Dreyfuss Hudsons specially decorated to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Toy Fair. This one was presented to Toy Fair officials. Below is the plaque on the display board.

It reads "Donated by Lionel LLC in commemoration of the American
International Toy Fair 100th Anniversary Celebration, February 16, 2003"

MTH Electric Trains

Like Lionel, MTH downsized their display for this show. Over the past few years, MTH has been the subject of some wild rumors. It is indeed a strange phenomenon in this hobby that a few people want to present themselves as being "in the know" and "the first with a hot scoop". Some either manufacture erroneous reports regarding MTH's (or other manufacturer's) status as a business or, even more peculiar, fabricate details about MTH president and founder Mike Wolf's personal life. Before Toy Fair, MTH posted a notice on their website pertaining to shipping schedules and addressing in a broader sense their reasons for some adjustments made regarding quantities of items produced and suppliers of those items.

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MTH's display layout included two loops of RailKing O gauge and an outer-loop of 1 gauge.
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MTH's presentation was centered on the RailKing line. Various RailKing items and a Norfolk Southern boxcar in 1 gauge on the shelf.
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A dealer in Miami gave MTH the idea to power the display lines so visitors could hear how each train sounded. If you look closely on the right, you can see the power connectors. Using the DCS command system, MTH would sometimes activate all the horns/whistles of the trains on display at the same time.
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MTH's oil tank simulates the changing quantities of oil in the tank by moving the platform up and down.
P1010018.JPG (133543 bytes) The Railtown Theater is playing "Attack of the Werewolf" and "Rockets from the Moon". We think there should be a double-feature showing "Great MTH Layouts" parts one and two.

This is the RailKing 1 gauge Clinchfield Challenger. It is 50-inches long.

P1010028.JPG (195318 bytes) An example of MTH's affordable Standard Gauge starter set. A new introductory set headed by a No. 9 electric was recently announced.

K-Line Electric Trains

There was a time when K-Line was seemingly only interested in competing with Lionel over the "traditional line" market (starter sets, low-end accessories). Over the past several years, K-line has become increasingly stronger by introducing high-end items such as the scale B-6 and scale aluminum passenger cars. With a new 164-page catalog, detailing what must be the highest number of SKUs in the 3-rail hobby so far this year, K-Line is demonstrating that their goal to become the number one 3-rail train manufacturer is something they genuinely desire to achieve. Their catalog, and their large display at Toy Fair, boasts a wide variety of products.

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K-Line continues its well-received line of scale locomotives with brand new 2-8-2 Mikados. This K-Line scale Hudson locomotive is numbered 5343 and retails for $499.95 with Lionel SignalSounds. That is remarkably inexpensive. If you want full RailSounds the price is $624.95, which is still very reasonable.
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In spite of the surge in hi-rail realism, new whimsical cars are still being designed and built by the various manufacturers. This K-Line car has an operating voltmeter built into the side. Here is the double searchlight car.
P1010040.JPG (81234 bytes) For those who love the small motorized units, K-Line offers new Plymouth Switcher. This undecorated sample is 6-inches long.
P1010039.JPG (225969 bytes) These Santa Fe 4-bay modern covered hoppers look sharp.
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Animations are among the few operating accessories hi-railers allow on their pikes. Each of these construction accessories has movement and the vehicles are diecast. The two buildings in the foreground are part of K-Lines "Spookytown" Halloween accessories. In the background are some of the "Mainline America" buildings K-line offers to create towns.
P1010047.JPG (129578 bytes) The light on top of the lighthouse blinks.
P1010049.JPG (210375 bytes) Here is a sample of some FDNY products.
P1010051.JPG (178049 bytes) The Coca-Cola line is presented in over eight pages in K-Line's new catalog.
P1010054.JPG (147946 bytes) K-Line is exploring the S gauge market with a few items such as this tank car.


Situated next to MTH's booth was a company called Merkur. They have a long history as a company and also have some experience with O gauge 3-rail toy trains. The couplers at a casual glance look similar to the Ives type. Plans for the trains pictured below included competitive pricing.

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This locomotive is a reproduction of a piece made by Merkur in the 1930s. It has that unique tinplate quality that makes the Prewar Lionel items so attractive. This tinplate station is one of several structures Merkur plans to make.
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We were told that the brand name on this car is a popular beer in Czechoslovakia. Na zdraví!. European trains are desirable for many American model railroaders, particularly if they have ever visited the country the train is modeled from.
P1010035.JPG (163964 bytes) This is one neat car. You can fill it with your beverage of choice (Vodka Martinis for Dad, chocolate milk for Junior, of course). Notice the cork in the filling hole on the right, tap on the left.

February 2003